Four March Madness Branding Tips

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The 2014 National Title game between the UConn Huskies and Kentucky Wildcats drew 21.2 million viewers. The game was a culmination of what is now a cultural touchstone – March Madness. From Selection Sunday, to filling out brackets in the office pool, to the title game, March Madness is three week long Event. So what are the marketing lessons you can learn from March Madness to apply to your future projects?


1. Make it an event:  From conference tournaments, to bracket experts, to Selection Sunday, the NCAA Tournament is an Event. Selection Sunday has especially crossed over into the mainstream. Turning your marketing projects into events makes something feel larger than it is, and gives people a reason to join your event in for fear of missing out.

2. Create a contest: Contests bring out the competitive aspect of people. Contests can range from something simple, like raffles or quizzes, to something more complex, like scavenger hunts.

Filling out a bracket is one of the biggest reasons for the popularity of the tournament. In fact, the Presidential Bracket has become an event in itself. It gives people a chance to show off their knowledge, and in turn, connect with a larger office or group of friends. The numbers are astounding. Over 60 million people fill out brackets every year, with over $1 billion at stake in pools. Warren Buffett made waves by offering anyone who filled out a perfect bracket $1 billion (the last perfect bracket fell by opening weekend).

There’s quirks of the bracket, such as a 11 seed making the Final Four more times than a 10 seed (3 to 0). There’s always an upset in the 5-12 seed and 4-13 seed matchups. And now, there’s a bracket style tournament for everything. This is an excellent time to come up with your own bracket style marketing plan.

3. Surprise of the underdog: People like rooting for the underdog. Every year, there’s some out of nowhere team, with some out of nowhere star that ends up capturing the attention of the country. This x-factor is what sports are about – you never know, until it happens.

4. Star power: And while people love underdogs and surprises, star power still drives audiences. Star power, in this case, is defined by players who fans will see in the NBA. Many a NBA superstar, from Magic, Bird, and Jordan, have had their coming out parties in big moments in the NCAA tournament. A great run can define a player’s Q level for the rest of their career. This is one of the reasons why the NBA is pushing hard for a 2 year rule for NCAA players – this tournament does the marketing for them.

There’s much to be taken from March Madness. The tournament – and that comes with it – resonates with a wide audience. Use the four tips above and your marketing career with be on its way.

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